It’s the year 2022, and science still hasn’t caught up to most of the things that sci-fi told us would be commonplace in the 21st century. No flying cars, no silver lamé clothes. And no spaceships routinely launching from other planets. However, it looks like we might have that last one becoming reality pretty soon. NASA has announced plans to launch samples from the surface of the planet Mars using a rocket. This would officially make it the first-ever launch taking place from another world.

According to SlashGear, (via Design Taxi) the Perseverance rover, which is currently rolling its way on the surface of the red planet, will collect samples as part of its mission before sealing them in a tube. Rather than bringing them back home to Earth, these tubes will stay on Mars. At least until a future rover collects them and takes them to a launch site. From there, it will rocket the samples into orbit. Afterward, a spacecraft grabs it and brings it back to Earth.

Mockup of NASA's future Mars Ascent Vehicle launch spacecraft, or MAV.

Lockheed Martin is helping NASA with this particular mission. The space agency recently awarded it a contract to build the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) carrying samples into orbit. Creating this MAV is proving to be quite the challenge, however. For starters, it has the basic obstacles of creating a vehicle that survives that brutal terrain of Mars. This includes the freezing temperatures and the constant dust storms. Not to mention the low amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. And the MAV needs to be small enough to fit into the Sample Retrieval Lander carrying it to Mars.

NASA and Lockheed hope to make the Mars launch happen by 2026, a mere four years away. Hopefully, this is all a big step in perfecting technology that will have actual humans set foot on Mars. The dates for a manned NASA Mars mission keep getting pushed further and further ahead. But it will be a day that will (hopefully) unite humanity in a way we haven’t seen in decades, since the long-ago days of the Apollo missions.